Senator Asks Pentagon To Review Antidepressants

us-soldiers-afghanBen Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, has asked the Pentagon for info on how many troops in war zones have been prescribed antidepressants while they were deployed. Cardin sent a letter Tuesday to US Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressing concern about how antidepressants are being administered troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cardin wants to determine if the Defense Department is prescribing antidepressants appropriately and is concerned about any connection between the meds and suicide rates among troops. In October, for instance, 16 active-duty US soldiers killed themselves, bringing the total number of active-duty suicides in 2009 to 134. At this rate, the number of 2009 suicides will eclipse last year's total of 140 - the highest yearly number of suicides in Army history. Cardin also notes the rate of active-duty suicides is greater than that of the US population, although he doesn't question the "long-term efficacy" of the drugs.

Most soldier/vet suicides get blamed on PTSD. This overlooks a couple important things:

1. Depression and drinking problems are both more common than PTSD is, even among combat vets, and have a more robustly established and higher suicide risk.

2. As the story above notes, antidepressant use among younger people, especially if not monitored closely, is shown to carry a significant suicide risk.

Cardin's effort is an attempt to address the second problem. This is a good example of how reflexive diagnoses, as PTSD has become for any combat veteran (and sometimes even prospective combat veterans -- i.e., troops preparing to deploy), can do harm. They can lead you to ignore other possible causes of the symptoms on display.

Posted via web from David Dobbs's Somatic Marker

More like this

It's fitting that the US dedicates a day each year to honoring veterans, but ensuring that veterans get the care and services they merit is year-round work. In recent years, we've seen the federal government increase recognition of, and resources for, the mental health conditions that many veterans…
The Department of Defense appears to be making a real effort to determine the scope of the problem.  They now have published the results of a second screening of 88,235 returning soldiers.  In their most recent study, they acknowledge that the prior study missed a lot.  Moreover, they now worry…
...we might want to issue them rifles. From the NY Times: "We're behind the power curve, and we can't piddle around," Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, said in an interview. He added that one-third of his soldiers lacked the M-4 rifles preferred by active-duty…
Following up on their investigative series on conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Washington Postâs Dana Priest and Anne Hull have written a series of wrenching articles on veterans returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder. Bureaucratic confusion and a shortage of…

New Science Questions Theory of Antidepressant Drugs

"Eva Redei, David Lawrence Stein Professor of Psychiatry at Northwesternâs Feinberg School, has presented a study that throws a monkey wrench in the scientific rationale that is used to justify giving out antidepressant medication. She has clearly demonstrated, for the first time, that genes involved with stress are different from genes involved with depression. Since antidepressant medication is targeting stress-related function of neurotransmitters they are, in essence, missing the boat."